Labor Rights

Content type
Collection

Settlement Houses in the United States

Founded beginning in the 1880s in impoverished urban neighborhoods, settlement houses provided recreation, education, and medical and social service programs, primarily for immigrants. Jewish women played significant roles as benefactors, organizers, administrators of, and participants in these institutions.

Rosika Schwimmer

Rosika Schwimmer earned a reputation as a leading proponent of women’s rights in Hungary before the age of 30. She remained devoted to the causes of feminism and pacificism throughout her life, despite the many obstacles that challenged her commitment to the goals of world peace and equality.

Rose Schneiderman

For nearly half a century, Rose Schneiderman worked tirelessly to improve wages, hours, and safety standards for American working women. She saw those things as “bread,” the very basic human rights to which working women were entitled. But she also worked for such “roses” as schools, recreational facilities, and professional networks for trade union women, because she believed that working women deserved much more than a grim subsistence.

Anna Rosenberg

Anna Lederer Rosenberg was an administrator, diplomat, and public relations and manpower expert who advised multiple presidents. In 1950 she became the first female Assistant Secretary of Defense. Deeply admired by military and government leaders, Rosenberg’s success demonstrates how deftly she maneuvered within these male-dominated arenas.

Ethel Rosenberg

Ethel Rosenberg, convicted in 1953 alongside her husband for conspiracy to divulge atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, became the second woman in the United States to be executed by the federal government. The verdict and the Rosenbergs’ execution became one of the most-questioned cases in United States history, as well as one piece of a much larger Cold War picture of anti-Communist hysteria and antisemitism.

Elizabeth Brandeis Raushenbush

Following in the footsteps of her famous father, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Elizabeth Brandeis Raushenbush became an expert on labor legislation in the United States and one of its strongest defenders.

Justine Wise Polier

As the first woman judge appointed in New York, Justine Wise Polier focused on helping the most vulnerable population: children. From the bench, Polier helped reform both foster care and the school system, ensuring that minority children had access to services. She also worked an informal second shift, volunteering for important causes ranging from prison reform to trying to evacuate Jewish children from Europe during the Holocaust.

Pioneer Women in the United States

Pioneer Women was created in The United States in 1925 to help the pioneer women’s cooperatives in Palestine through American-based philanthropic efforts. During its first convention in 1926 in New York City, the group articulated goals to help create a homeland in Palestine, to support Mo’ezet ha-Po’alot, and to educate American Jewish women to a more conscious role in American society.

Rose Pesotta

Rose Pesotta was an iconic labor organizer and president of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in the early twentieth century. Pesotta saw her union organizing as an opportunity to fulfill the anarchist mandate “to be among the people and teach them our ideal in practice.”

Pauline Newman

Pauline Newman played an essential role in galvanizing the early twentieth-century tenant, labor, socialist, and working-class suffrage movements. The first woman ever appointed general organizer by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Newman continued to work for the ILGWU for more than seventy years—first as an organizer, then as a labor journalist, a health educator, and a liaison between the union and government officials.

National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

Founded in 1913 as the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and officially renamed Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) in 1993, the WRJ has for more than a century galvanized hundreds of thousands of Jewish women to support and advance Reform Judaism, the Jewish people, and Jewish values in their home communities, around the country, and around the world.

Histadrut

Histadrut (the General Federation of Workers) was founded in 1920 to bring together Jewish workers who had recently arrived in Palestine. Though the organization proclaimed equal treatment and opportunities for women and men workers, the reality was not so simple.

Lillian Herstein

Lillian Herstein was an early twentieth-century teacher and a nationally known labor leader. She spent her career advocating for worker education and served as the advisor on child labor legislation to the International Labor Organization in Geneva in 1937.

Bessie Abramowitz Hillman

Bessie Abramowitz devoted her life to unions, organizing her first strike at fifteen, announcing her engagement on a picket line, and continuing her efforts for workers’ rights until her death. She remained active in union activities until her death in New York City, on December 23, 1970, at age eighty-one.

Rose Wortis

Rose Wortis was an active union organizer and member of the Communist Party in the first half of the 20th century. She was an elected official of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the Trade Union Unity League, and the New York District Communist Party.

Helen Rosen Woodward

Helen Rosen Woodward is best known for her contribution to the world of advertising and is generally believed to be the first female account executive in the United States. She was also prolific author who was committed to social justice.

Working Women's Education in the United States

Although young immigrant Jewish women had always been especially motivated to become educated public-school students, the workers’ education movement in the 1910s and 1920s tried to teach workers specifically about social activism. Organizations such as the International Ladies Garment Workers Union created summer schools at colleges to educate women workers about trade unionism.

Theresa Wolfson

Theresa Wolfson, economist and educator, taught at Brooklyn College from 1929 until her retirement in 1967. A prolific writer, she published in the fields of labor economics and industrial relations. As early as 1916, Wolfson studied barriers to the advancement of women in the workplace and the unequal treatment of women within trade unions.

Pearl Willen

Pearl Willen was a twentieth-century social and human welfare activist and communal leader with a love for Jewish heritage. She had a lifelong record of service for such causes as civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of workers.

Barbara Mayer Wertheimer

Barbara Mayer Wertheimer gave a voice to the voiceless, empowering thousands of women union workers through her initiatives in the late 20th century. Wertheimer established the trade union women’s studies program in 1972 and developed several other academic programs, giving working women access to education and the ability to interact and organize with other union workers.

Gertrude Weil

A dedicated activist for women’s rights and racial equality, Gertrude Weil showed that local, small-scale political action could have far-reaching effects. Her decision to associate herself with a relatively radical social and political agenda was unusual for a southern woman and even more uncommon for a southern Jew. Weil, however, strayed from this norm, because she believed that women had a responsibility to participate in the political process.

Anna Strunsky Walling

Anna Strunsky Walling was a Russian-born author, journalist, lecturer, and social activist. She produced several novels and memoirs and was involved in a number of political organizations, including the Socialist Labor Party and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which she and her husband helped found.

Roosje Vos

Roosje Vos was an organizer of the Dutch socialist movement and an editor of De Naaistersbode, the journal of the seamstresses’ trade union. She represented the interests of feminists and women in the movement, at times at odds with her fellow leaders.

Sara Szweber

Sara Szweber was an influential leader in the Jewish labor party, the Bund, first in Belarus, then in Poland, and later in New York.

Sociodemography

Over the last several decades, Jewish women attained significant achievement in the socio-economic sphere and played a leading role in maintaining Jewish continuity. In general, Jewish women are educated and participate in the labor force at higher rates than their non-Jewish counterparts.

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